MIDDLETOWN — The city selected Erik Costa, a former state police lieutenant, as its new police chief Monday.

Costa’s nomination comes 14 months after the former head of the force, William McKenna, retired after a quarter-century of service.

In total, 15 candidates applied for the job, with a dozen making it to the interview process, Mayor Ben Florsheim said.

Costa, currently the director of campus safety at Mitchell College in New London, sees the Middletown force as one of the best in the state. His vision aligns with that of city leaders who have, especially of late, focused on guiding youth in a positive way, he said.

As such, Costa intends to form close ties with the school administration, as well as other groups working on that effort in town. “We need to start guiding youth … through the way they look at the world,” he said.

His goal is to create more direct programming, especially for young people, to achieve that goal.

Costa is also a proponent of community policing, and the state’s passage of the accountability act last October.

“I’m a big believer in effective programming,” Costa said. “Our interactions and our values as a department are to be supportive of the community and align ourselves with the community.

“I think it’s a good opportunity to mold the department to be one of the best, which I plan for it to be,” Costa said.

Costa, who now lives in Stonington but plans on relocating to Middletown, served as commanding officer of the Connecticut State Police Research, Development and Planning Unit, according to the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. During his 18 years as a state trooper, he earned a Medal for Lifesaving and three Unit citation Awards.

He was a sergeant in the Eastern District Major Crime Squad and previously was assigned to Troop D in Danielson, Troop E in Montville, and Troop F in Westbrook, as well as resident trooper in Brooklyn and Haddam, DESPP said.

He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Salve Regina University, as well as a graduate certificate in leadership.

Costa’s selection came highly recommended from an interview panel that included representation from both law enforcement and public safety personnel, and from the broader community, according to a press release issued by Florsheim Monday afternoon.

The new chief “rose to the top of a competitive field based on the strength of his experience in law enforcement; his commitment to communication, transparency, and community engagement; and his recognition that MPD’s existing strengths and its future potential are both rooted in the outstanding men and women who serve the City of Middletown as police officer,” the news release said.

“As a newcomer to the position of mayor in 2019, I was tremendously fortunate to inherit a police department that has come to be regarded as one of the premier law enforcement agencies in Connecticut under the leadership of Chief Bill McKenna and Deputy Chief Mike Timbro,” Florsheim said in the statement.

“As a newcomer to the position of chief of police, Erik will benefit from and build upon that same legacy with a new level of energy and enthusiasm,” said the mayor, who added he’s pleased with the new top cop’s vision for public safety.

Councilmen Darnell Ford and council Minority Leader Philip Pessina served on the interview panel. Pessina retired as deputy chief from the local police force in 2006.

“Middletown has gained a leader in public safety who will embrace and enforce initiatives that will produce positive outcomes against racial disparities and discrimination for our youth and marginalized communities, as well as for the public at large,” they said in a joint statement.

“Erik’s selection states loud and clear that we’ll continue to listen and act in the best interest of safety for Middletown citizens, and the commission is looking forward to working with Chief Costa to ensure all voices are heard on matters of public safety,” the councilmen said.

His appointment is subject to approval by the Common Council.

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Middletown selects former state police lieutenant as new chief

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